… urban villages, once diverse melting pots, became shiny, wealthy and inward-looking. The big ideas became small and hard and sparkling as diamonds.
This is how it is playing out here in Sydney. In every direction the city center is ringed by desirable neighborhoods with exorbitant housing prices, where residents can dine, work and shop without ever traveling far from home.
It is a beautiful life, and effective at reducing car travel. But there is a darker side to it. The urban village ethos has encouraged prosperous neighborhoods to turn inward and even take pride in not connecting with fellow citizens in the suburban areas beyond.
The language we still hold on to about the inner city disguises the changes that have taken place. We still invoke the social justice battles of urban neighborhoods of the past — community, environment, heritage, people power — in an endless war to fight for even greater advantages for ourselves. …
The language — against developers, in favor of public assets — served as a linguistic sleight of hand that disguised the fact that an influential, overwhelmingly city-based and white cultural elite was mounting a fight against sharing resources with a less privileged part of the Sydney area. …
In Western Sydney more than anywhere, our future nation is being formed. The streets are not built for street life, but there is life, in spite of the streets. Thousands of years of culture are being woven into something loose we call Australian. And it is passing by those who refuse to venture beyond the inner city.
The challenge for our city and many like it is to think beyond the urban villages. The passion for well-designed communities needs to be directed outward instead of inward, geographically and in spirit. We need to let go of some of our resources; we need to learn to share. And if we are going to fight for our perfect little villages, the most honorable fight is the one to retain and expand public housing, to keep what little diversity we have left.
Culture is more than expensive and refined tastes in wine and food. I don’t want to live in the kind of city where we endeavor to know our grains and our meat, but not our fellow citizens.